Like all memorized pieces, your ability to effectively coach a student is minimized if their piece isn’t memorized. If a student attends a practice session with most of the piece not memorized, encourage them to spend that practice session memorizing the piece instead. Although you may have a little leeway with Poetry since the student has the manuscript with them, you still won’t be able to practice effectively if the student is reading straight from their black book the whole time.
If a student is using more than one poem, consider how they are presenting each poem. Would it be more effective to splice the poems up? Can you clearly tell when a poem changes? Do all poems fit a certain theme or idea?
Because blocking with a black book can be difficult, it may help to spend one practice session specifically focusing on using the black book. Some of these blockings might be simple (like turning a page to show emotion) and others may be more complicated (like using the book as a prop). Additionally, it might take some time for students to remember all the blockings. Be patient with them if, in the next practice, they have forgotten some of the blocking.
Because it is important not to sing-song in poetry, be on the lookout for voice inflections or tones that might convey this. If the piece is a rhyming poem, can you tell right away that it rhymes? Even if the poem doesn’t rhyme, can you easily tell where one line begins and another ends? If so, work on practicing the poem more fluidly.
It may help students to see examples of strong poetry performances, including NSDA final rounds, slam poetry, etc. The student doesn’t have to perform poetry exactly the same way, but it may help them see how a poem can be performed without a sing-song.
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